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'The Office' recap: Sahbray-toothed

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Despite lacking big moments from most of our favorite characters, last night’s “Sabre” really came together, didn’t it, Officers? It was another Michael-heavy episode, with a metric ton of Erin/Andy tension on the side; it was light on the rest of the players, but somehow managed guest spots from both Christian Slater (as himself) and Kathy Bates (as Dunder-Mifflin’s new owner). Dunder-Miffin was bought by an electronics company, Sabre, which everyone pronounced “sah-bray.” The merger meant new management, specifically Gabe, a young lanky guy whom Dwight greeted with a tray of hotdogs, like you do. Erin and Andy had adorably prepared a Scrantonized version of “Party in the USA” that relied on the wrong pronunciation, and then they adorably struggled through a few lines before they adorably bailed. I would like the next cluster of webisodes to be Andy and Erin singing duets, please, NBC. Because of how adorable it is. I’m rooting for those two, I really am, but having them each confessionalize that they’re waiting for the other to ask them out seems a little contrived, not to mention annoying.

To introduce Say-ber to the Dunder-Mifflinites, Gabe brought along a welcome video, hosted by Christian Slater. If you can’t have the decency to be the intro video from Jurassic Park (“dah-no DNA!”), then I don’t want to know you. It’s the schlockiest, buzz-wordiest business video imaginable. “You’ve been shown a nonsensical video,” Jim mimicked. “You’re probably wondering what’s going on. Well, you’re not alone.” Snerk. I miss aloof Jim.

“Talk about vacation daaaays!” Meredith wailed at the meeting, because she is awesome and super-underutilized this season. Gabe explained that everyone would get two weeks (grumble!), that Sabre was installing Internet filters on everyone’s computer (another grumble!), and that instead of cups or plastic bottles, everyone now had to use the sleek aluminum water bottles he handed out. Grumble one more time!

Predictably, Michael was less than thrilled: “Too much change is not a good thing! Ask the climate!” After his complaints to Gabe fell on deaf ears, he pulled his normal move for when he doesn’t get his own way: Move on up the food chain. After his complaints via videochat to Sabre’s CEO Jo (Kathy Bates) fell on bossier deaf ears, again Michael did what he always does: asked David Wallace.

Who, as we recall, does not work for D-M anymore. He’s an unemployment cliché, from the five o’clock shadow to the Fluffernutter lunch and the fridge full of beers, and Michael was horrified that David’s new business idea was a toy vacuum called “Suck It.” So horrified in fact that he decided to Make It Work with the Sabrefolk.

On the Jim and Pam front, they were trying to get their still unborn child into a fancy daycare center near DMHQ. I’m assuming Pam is gestating an elephant baby because she has been pregnant since the dawn of time, and I’m also guessing that Jim lives in the past because he uses MapQuest instead of Google Maps. The daycare interview went poorly after Jim accidentally walked in on the center’s director, Not Paul Giamatti (Joey Slotnick), who eventually had the most strangely meta line The Office has ever had: “”Did you ever think you might now be as charming as you think you are?” Burn, Jam! Burn. The whole daycare plot seems cobbled together from plots from any number of other sitcoms and family comedies — I can’t tell what makes it an Office story in particular.

Other thoughts

++ We only saw Kelly for a split second, which seemed strange because she would be so into Gabe. Although…Ryan’s new look is pretty fantastic…

++ Christian Slater playing himself was funny, but it was jarring to have as recognizable a star as Kathy Bates playing a character in the same episode.

++ Of course Michael would keep his t-shirt on in David Wallace’s hot tub.

++ We barely heard from Meredith, Phyllis, Stanley, Oscar, or Angela, and we only got tiny lines from Creed (“Have you tried making everything smaller?”) and Dwight (“You ripped it open like an ape”).

“Sabre” definitely worked, but I’m starting to wonder how much more mileage the show can get from stories based on corporate changes. We’ve seen so much of the business shake-ups, from “The Merger,” to stuff with Jan, to the Michael Scott Paper Company, to Jim getting promoted, etc. Some of the best episodes of the show focus on the smallest, most mundane aspects of office culture — breaking the monotony, the stupid sexual harassment seminars, holiday parties, the arbitrary alliances. Being bought out by another company with a clashing corporate culture? That’s a massive, high-stakes change for anyone. Pretzel day? That’s only a high-stakes event for the characters on the show. The Office‘s calling card is showing us how invested these people become in the smallest, silliest, strangest things, and episodes like “Sabre,” while fun, trend too far away from that core.

What did you think, Officers? How much longer can you stand Erin and Andy not just getting together? At what point do we not care about Jim and Pam’s child-rearing strategies? And can Gabe ever really fit in with the Scranton branch?

Image credit: Chris Haston/NBC

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